ACLU raises constitutional problem with detention centers
June 10, 2014
- ACLU letter to detention centers
- ACLU briefing paper on constitutionality of detentions based solely on immigration detainer requests
CONTACT: Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 410-889-8555; firstname.lastname@example.org
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland has sent a letter to all county detention centers and the Baltimore City Detention Center notifying them of recent federal court decisions finding that detention on the sole basis of an immigration detainer request violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. In the past three months, three federal courts have found that such detention raises constitutional concerns and that counties are liable in damages to the individuals they detain on that basis.
"The courts are making it increasingly clear that detaining someone solely on a civil immigration request raises serious due process and Fourth Amendment concerns and that local agencies can be held liable when an individual's rights are violated," said Sirine Shebaya, attorney directing the ACLU of Maryland's immigrants' rights advocacy. "We encourage detention agencies in Maryland to seriously reconsider these potentially unconstitutional practices, which are also an inefficient use of our limited law enforcement resources and result in ripping apart our communities."
The ACLU letter includes a briefing paper providing an analysis of the court cases, for leadership at the detention centers to review. Nearly all detention centers in the state have policies or practices of responding to every immigration detainer they receive by detaining individuals named in these forms for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pickup past the time when they should otherwise be released. For example, the court rulings raise issues with continuing to detain an individual after they have posted bond or been acquitted or resolved their charges or otherwise become eligible for release.
Immigration detainers are not judicial warrants and are issued without probable cause. Compliance with these detainers is not mandatory, yet many counties detain immigrants with no greater offense than a traffic violation - effectively transforming their local law enforcement officials into proxy immigration agents. Importantly, the Maryland Attorney General's Office last year issued a letter of advice joining a number of other state and county attorneys in recognizing that compliance with immigration detainer requests is discretionary.
In 2013, the ACLU of Maryland released a report, Restoring Trust: How Immigration Detainers in Maryland Undermine Public Safety Through Unnecessary Enforcement, that describes how immigrants in Maryland are detained after they are eligible for release, in state and local facilities and at state and local expense, for the sole purpose of transferring them to federal immigration authorities even when they are picked up solely on traffic violations and even when they are not even charged with a civil immigration violation.